In late 2019 developers Integra61 got in contact with Northampton-based Master Builder Colonial Construction to propose a design-and-build package for the shell and core for a Costa Coffee drive-through unit just off the A1 at Durham.

FMB member Colonial Construction were happy to oblige, as their typical services including building, shopfitting, maintenance and development works for popular roadside services provider Roadchef, alongside others. 

They had previously undertaken work throughout Roadchef’s motorway network and collaborated with their design team on their popular modular Costa Coffee drive-through pods, which are fabricated in Northamptonshire and then transported to locations throughout the UK.

Colonial Construction’s Managing Director Matt Bridge cites Northampton as the prime location for this kind of commercial work:

“Being situated in Northampton has been brilliant, in that it is pretty much centre of England and we literally mobilise to work for them from Pont Abraham services in West Wales to Annandale Services in Scotland.”

Brief and design

A brief was subsequently finalised which included the creation of carparking facilities, an access road, storm water attenuation, drainage and landscaping, as well as the shop fitout works themselves.

Colonial Construction completed the design process in June of 2020, before work commenced on 29 July on the construction of the new unit.

Building on a solid foundation

In light of the wet weather typical to the area, the Colonial Construction team imported 2,500 tonnes of high quality roadstone stone, covering some 2000m2 for use throughout the site as a base to work on, helping them keep things tidy and supporting the piling rig and steel erection crane throughout the operation.

This proved to be a prudent step; a specialist excavating and civil engineering company working on an adjacent site were forced to postpone works at one point because their machines could not work in the wet conditions; a fate this Master Builder’s preparatory steps meant they could avoid… Colonial Construction now aim to use a similar approach for all upcoming projects.

Innovative design saves time

After displaying such foresight at the outset of the project, Colonial Construction continued their innovative approach with the implementation of a timber frame within a steel frame at the structure’s core. This modern method of construction involved using timber infill frames to form the external walls, with the timber frame benefitting from a plywood outer lining wrapped in vapour barrier. The external windows and doors were then fitted to make the structure was watertight and secure.

This approach allowed the team to complete the external lining (in this case a mix of coloured render and Western Red Cedar cladding) and internal works simultaneously, as opposed to traditional blockworking, which is more time-consuming and prevents these tasks from being started at the same time. Bridge estimates that the team saved at least four weeks using this method relative to the traditional blockworking approach.

The onset of COVID-19

The team also had to contend with working restrictions in response to COVID-19, including a local area lockdown. Colonial Construction’s team, predominantly from Northamptonshire, had formed their own working “bubble”, but at one point found themselves with nowhere to stay – with some contemplating staying in caravans. Thankfully, a deal was negotiated with the nearby Days Inn to house the team and works continued.

Bridge reflects on the arrangement and the subsequent changes his team made to their lifestyles to keep the project on-course:

“We fitted out the canteen for them so they didn’t eat McDonalds every day for 19 weeks and some of the smells coming out of the canteen as they cooked their evening meals would have graced the Ivy!”

Coffee is served

The team worked to a tight timeline to produce the best Costa drive-through unit so far, despite significant obstacles. From start to finish the works took 19 weeks and the completed buildings, fully fitted out and ready to serve hot coffee to thirsty travellers, were handed over on 11 December 2020.

A second helping

Not content with serving up just one project for their clients, from mid-October Colonial Construction also commenced refurbishment works to a Durham services area. These works included extending and rebranding an existing WH Smiths, as well as relocating a new rebranded Costa Coffee outlet and adding a 180m2 seating area.

These supplementary renovations were handed over at the same time as the new unit down the road.

Reflecting on a job well done

Looking back on what they achieved, Bridge adds:

As members of the Federation of Master Builders we are proud to showcase what we can achieve in our industry. Teamwork, quality of product, accuracy of price, technical ability, flexibility and a willingness to ensure safe working practices are adopted, are what Roadchef and all of our clients get from us as members, backed up by the technical audits.”

Colonial Construction are now engaged on a high-profile site at Wicksteed Park in Kettering, renovating the famous Captains Lounge and Fountain Lawn as part of a heritage-funded project to celebrate the 100th year of the park. Works are due to be completed in June 2021, so grab a coffee and watch this space!

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